Back with another edition of Redskins round table. TWith week 2 of the preseason now in the books, what positive and negative thoughts do you have on the team so far, and what types of things do you want to see out of the Redskins before this preseason is over?
I'm starting to be more cautiously optimistic about this team and their chances within the NFC East. The offense has looked in rhythm and the defense has looked solid. With that being said my biggest concern at this point is the offenses inability (especially first teamers) not being able to score touchdowns. This has been a continual problem through the years and I hope it is more of a product of keeping regular season play calling close to our vest at this point. Also as good as the defense looked on Friday, we have to remember it was essentially the Colts B team for the whole game; I look forward to them going against the Ravens who will test them not only in running game but also with spreading the field with new addition Lee Evans.
I understand the need to not open up the playbook too much in the preseason, but this week I'd really like to see some shots downfield and see guys like Niles Paul and Aldrick Robinson a chance to display their speed. Also I'd like to see how John Beck and Rex can handle the deep ball. I hope whoever the starting QB is that they are given the opportunity to get in rhythm and play the full three quarters with the starters; I don't want to see a situation where Shanny is switching back and forth. It would also really interest me to see Leonard Hankerson battle it out with a fellow rookie, Jimmy Smith. I think it would be a good test for both and I'd like to see guys like Moss and Hightower rest at this point.
I couldn’t be happier about the lack of any major drama surrounding our players. Judging by the apparent chemistry up and down our roster, we seem to have benefitted greatly by the subtraction of McNabb and Haynesworth. The targeting of high character players with strong work ethics has seemed to pay off and it feels like these guys have really embraced their no-name, blue collar identity in camp. As for negatives, I sure wish Landry and Atogwe were on the field in these games. We need them to start getting in sync on the field between the whistles. Overall, I have no real "negative thoughts." I like the direction Mike Shanahan has us pointed in and I am confident we are building something the right way—as opposed to the quick fixes and patch jobs our front office has tried in the past.
Before the preseason is over, I would like to see Leonard Hankerson make at least one or two major strides in his development. I worry that once the regular season starts, his on-field time will be rather limited and the important practice reps will be reserved for those higher on the depth chart than him. These next couple weeks are huge for Hank the Tank—and the future of our offense.
It's really hard to find negatives with this team given the expectations going in. The lack of depth at safety and corner are concerning, and obviously the O-Line consists of 3/5th backups, but things are looking good. Regarding the rest of the pre-season, I'd like to see the Redskins tested better. The Colts were a joke, so now that we get at least a full half against the Ravens starters makes me happy. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed vs John Beck? Yes please. Haloti Ngata vs Kory Lichtensteiger? Terrence Cody vs Will Montgomery. Terrell Suggs vs Trent Williams. It's going to be fun to watch (hopefully).
Many positives have surrounded this team so far into this preseason. The Redskins for the first time in a long time, now have the focus of a real team and have direction, the running game is budding at this point as it does not matter which back that gets plugged in. The offensive and defensive lines are vastly improved this year over last and they look to control the line of scrimmage this year. The biggest positive for me is the fact that the Redskins no longer have the media "circus" in town any longer.
While there are not many negatives to see at this point, I would say that the injuries they have in the secondary have showcased the weak backups that are available. I would also say that even though it is preseason, they seem to have a little issue in the red zone so far this year and that is a negative that I hope they turn around as the thought of depending on Graham Gano is not very inviting.
Before the preseason is over I would like to see Laron Landry, Otagwe and Josh Wilson get some more reps to find out just how they play in the system. Improved play from Leonard Hankerson is also at the top of the "I want to see" list as well; I believe he will be just fine with a little time to develop.
Positive thoughts: The defensive front seven has been vastly improved and should do a very good job at both generating pressure and stopping the run. The running backs have all been a pleasant surprise, which is saying something since both of our top two returning backs haven't been part of the discussion. Also the wide receiver corps looks a lot stronger and deeper than last season. While they aren't elite they are a solid group with a good balance of veterans and young talent with potential. Finally, whether they came from the draft, free agency or via trades, the majority of the Redskins additions have looked good so far.
Negative thoughts: Although it looks to be improved, the offensive line is still probably the weakest link on this team. They have been strong against the run so far, but have struggled some against the pass rush. While that doesn't sound too bad, they have yet to face a full strength starting defense for an extended period of time. The defensive backfield should be a strength but injuries and depth issues have left it a major red flag. At full strength it should be among the top half of the league, but until they are all healthy it is hard to anoint them as a quality unit.
As for the rest of the preseason I'd like to see a couple things happen. First I want to see the rookies (and other young players) get even more opportunities, especially the receivers as they have a tough position battle going. Next I'd like to see more consistency out of the offensive line, and not just the starting unit. Third, I'd like to see what our healthy first team defense looks like on the field, so hopefully they will be ready for week one. Finally, I'd like to see the Redskins get aggressive in waiver wire pickups. Although the Skins may have some tough cuts of their own, they shouldn't completely write off finding additional talent on the waiver wire. While there will be some intriguing veteran names, I'd focus on rookies and young players. Given the shortened offseason, it is very likely that some additional draft picks and priority undrafted free agents will get cut despite having the talent to make it in the NFL. The Redskins should be active in this area and hopefully pick up a young player or two that could have a future with this team.